GWANGJU AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 8th Fighter Wing chaplain corps conducted Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, a suicide prevention training at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, Mar. 30-31, 2023.
The training brought together 19 Airmen from the 607th Materiel Maintenance Squadron, Detachment 1, to learn skills that will aide them in recognizing signs and possibly helping someone with suicidal thoughts.
“Suicide is as a huge problem. I think it's especially important here since it’s a remote tour,” said Tech. Sgt. Dwayne Walker, 8th Fighter Wing NCO in charge of chapel resources. “The entire DoD has a really big problem with suicide — especially when we're in the 0.1% of the world and we have extremely high rates.”
Throughout the two-day course, Airmen were taught to better understand suicide and become comfortable connecting with others without stigma by sharing personal experiences regarding suicide, whether it was in their own life or with someone they knew.
“During this course, we emphasize confidentiality on what they share with us, which can create a trust to share personal aspects of their life without fear of judgment,” said Staff Sgt. Javid Javad, 8th FW NCO in charge of readiness. “They also experience that they are not the only people with unique challenges in their life which can create a community that can understand and support each other.”
The lesson concluded with Airmen being put through hands-on scenarios that might help them learn the best ways to connect with those who are having suicidal thoughts and mental health issues.
“Two main things that I pulled from the course is the ability to ask somebody, straightforwardly, if they're going to commit suicide or if they're thinking about killing themselves,” added Walker. “90% of people are not comfortable with just openly asking that question. So for me, that's the most vital part of the course; getting people comfortable so if you see signs, you will be okay with asking the question.”
The 8 FW chapel is looking forward with plans of future ASIST classes for Airmen to attend. The ultimate goal is to reduce the taboo around discussions of suicide, focus on providing proper care to people with thoughts of suicide, and collectively creating a safer community.
For more information on the ASIST program, please reach out to the 8 FW Chapel. If you or someone you know is suicidal or struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the 8th Medical Group mental health office at 315-782-2273 or speak to a chaplain at 315-782-4073.